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Monday, October 9, 2017

World Student Team Championship: Leningrad 1960

    The first student championship was held in Oslo in 1954 where Czechoslovakia won. The Soviet team won in at Lyons, 1956 at Uppsala, 1957 at Reykjavik and in 1958 at Golden Sands in Bulgaria. In 1959, at Budapest, Bulgaria won an unexpected victory.
     This event, the 7th, was held in the Young Pioneer Palace in the city of Leningrad (today St. Petersburg) from July 15th August 2nd, 1960. The participating teams were: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, East Germany., Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Mongolia, Romania, Sweden, USA, USSR, and Yugoslavia. When the event began news was received that the Polish team would be arriving late, but shortly after the start it was learned that they were not coming.
     The British team took the lead in the first rounds. Playing against Belgium, Finland and Hungary, they scored 10-2, but when they came up against the Soviet and United States teams they suffered severe defeats.
     After the fifth round the United States took the lead, however in the sixth round the Yugoslav team created a sensation by defeating the U.S. by a decisive 3.5-0.5 and as a result, the Soviets took the lead and in subsequent rounds it was a race between them and the U.S.
     The decisive fight was in the 11th round when the Soviets only drew with Hungary while the U.S. defeated Finland 4-0. And, in the 12th round the U.S. team consolidated their lead by beating Hungary 3.5-0.5. The final round featured the U.S. vs. Soviet match up which would decide the championship. The U.S. team won, mostly due to the efforts of William Lombardy and Charles Kalme. Lombardy won top prize on first board and as a result was awarded the GM title at the FIDE congress in October 1960 at Leipzig. In this event he scored an amazing 12-1 (two draws!). On second board Kalme scored 11.5-1.5 which tied him for top honors with Milan Vukcevich of Yugoslavia. Kalme’s only loss was to Vukcevich.
    Vukcevich had a reputation as a gentleman and he demonstrated it very well when he had a chance to beat out Kalme for the board prize when both went into the last round with 11-1 scores. As soon as he heard that Kalme had accepted a draw against Bulgaria because the U.S. team agreed to four quick draws to clinch the championship, he felt it would be unfair for him to take the board prize because Kalme took a quick draw under such conditions. In a gesture of true sportsmanship, Vukcevich offered his German opponent a draw on the twelfth move, which was accepted.

     In 1962 Vukcevich moved to the U.S. and decided on a career in science when he enrolled in MIT. He eventually ended up in Cleveland, Ohio as an instructor at Case Western Reserve University for six years before leaving to work for General Electric, where, from 1989, he served as Chief Scientist. He published two books on science. In 1969 he was joint winner of the U.S. Open along with Pal Benko and Robert Byrne. In 1975 he finished third in the U.S. Championship and from 1976-79, he played in the National Telephone League, scoring 16.5 from 22 games., including wins against Bisguier, Yasser Seirawan, Nick De Firmian and Leonid Shamkovich. Vukcevich was also an accomplished problemist. He died in 2003 in Cleveland, Ohio and is buried in Evergreen Hill Cemetery in Chagrin Falls. 

The Pal Benko clock
    The first time I ever saw Vukcevich was sometime in the 1960s at a long forgotten weekend Swiss in the resort community of Lakeside, Ohio which, of course, sits right on Lake Erie. What I remember was that the venue was a screened-in room in a building right next to the lake and it was hot and humid and we could hear the waves lapping and the smell of dead fish was overpowering. I also remember that I had a new Pal Benko chess clock that was a piece of junk. It was of poor construction and the glass in the front was quite loose and rattled. Early in one of my games there was a loud snap and the whirring of the spring unwinding when, for no apparent reason, it just broke. I also remember after the completion of one of the rounds somebody asked Vukcevich why he had thought so long over one of his moves. His reply was, “After 12 moves the position was starting to get a little fuzzy.” He had taken so long in order to make sure his sacrifice was correct.

     Charles Kalme (November 15, 1939 – March 20, 2002) was born in Riga, Latvia and at the conclusion of World War II, Kalme and what was left of his family fled Latvia, lived for years in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany and finally arrived in Philadelphia in the United States in 1951.
     Kalme won the U.S. Junior Championship in 1955 with a 9-1 score. He also won the Pan-American Intercollegiate championship in 1957. He appeared in two U.S. Championships: 1958-1959 and 1960-1961. He was also a master contract bridge. Kalme received a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from New York University in 1967, and became a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. When Latvia regained its freedom from the Soviet Union, Kalme returned there, where he died in 2002.
     On board three Raymond Weinstein tied for top honors with Alekander Nikitin of the Soviet Union with a 7.7-2.5 score. Weinstein's unfortunate story is pretty well known and I have posted on it HERE.
     Fourth board was manned by Anthony Saidy (1937- ), who played a lot of chess and became a medical doctor. The only alternate was Eliot Hearst (1933- ) who went on to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology and was a professor for many years at the Indiana University and then at the University of Arizona. He also authored a well received book on blindfold chess. For many years Hearst wrote a very popular column for Chess Life magazine. I met Hearst one time in the early 1960s and he was very nice to a young kid who brashly asked for his autograph.

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